Problem of AAP: Why Kejriwal is more of a mouse-that-roared

What, oh what, is this animal called AAP? Before its stunning debut in the Delhi elections, the Aam Aadmi party was a bit of a curiosity, a welcome break from the jaded Congress-BJP politics as usual. But AAP decimated the Congress and it caused the BJP vote share to drop by 2 percentage points. As Arvind Kejriwal gets ready to take power in Delhi with a humbled Congress behind it, pundits across the country are trying desperately to categorize and label his party. It feels a bit like a political version of that famous John Godfrey Saxe poem about six blind men of Indostan trying to describe an elephant. One felt its side and thought it was like a wall. The second felt its tusk and thought it was like a spear. The third felt its trunk and decided an elephant was like a snake. And so on. aamadmiparty_AFP AFP Ashutosh Varshney writes in the Indian Express that there are only three comparable instances in post-Independence history. Janata Party in 1977. TDP in Andhra Pradesh and AGP in Assam in the 1980s. He is looking at AAP as an “electoral insurgency.” Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar in his Swaminomics column for the Times of India latches on to AAP as an “anti-corruption movement.” So he compares the rise of AAP to Jayaprakash Narayan in the 1970s and V P Singh in the 1980s. The first toppled Indira Gandhi. The second unseated her son. S L Rao focuses on how AAP grew in strength – its volunteer base, its use of social media, its strategy of collecting small donations from the many. In his op-ed in The Telegraph he compares it to the first Obama campaign. And so these men of Indostan Disputed loud and long, Each in his own opinion Exceeding stiff and strong, Though each was partly in the right, And all were in the wrong! The problem is AAP does not fit comfortably into any of its political forbears because as Rao writes unlike most parties in India, it “is not based on inherited power, wealth, community, caste or language, but on the principle of integrity.” Kejriwal has more of a mouse-that-roared persona instead of a celluloid God-on-earth like N T Rama Rao. Varshney points out that unlike AGP, AAP was not born out of a student movement. It has nothing to do with regional pride which has been the usual genesis of smaller parties in India from DMK to Trinamool to the Samajwadi Party. Though the Lokpal movement triggered the formation of AAP, the political party, it was nothing as cataclysmic as the imposition of Emergency. This “politics as unusual” at the Indian Express headlines Varshney’s piece is what makes AAP predictions tricky. On one hand with elections barely months away AAP does not have the time to build the kind of infrastructure it needs to really go all-out national though with 94 urban parliamentary constituencies and 122 semi-urban constituencies it can pack a pretty good punch. VP Singh took two years to organize against Rajiv Gandhi. And Aiyar points out both JP and VP movements “attracted prominent Opposition parties that could pool their resources, gaining national scale.” By stridently going it alone, AAP retains an appealing David vs Goliath image but it means “it lacks the width of the earlier two movements.” But the short run up to the national elections also means AAP will not really have a substantial record in Delhi its opponents could really pick apart by the time India goes to the polls. Rao writes that AAP with its promises about electricity and water lives in an “economic cloud cuckoo land” and “the starting euphoria will go as inefficiencies and shortages continue”. AAP, in some ways, benefits if it can go to the polls before it becomes just another political party and loses its sheen. If AAP gets even 30-40 seats in 2014, that would mean the BJP can kiss its dream of over 200 seats goodbye. That’s what is giving BJP and Narendra Modi nightmares. The Congress, already on the back-foot, is less affected because it just means that some of the votes it would lose to the BJP would go to AAP instead. That electoral math is currently mere speculation. Delhi was AAP’s old stomping grounds. It’s where the party was born. Whether it translates equally well in Mumbai or Bangalore or Kolkata remains to be seen. But AAP’s advantage over other political parties is that its grievances have a pan-Indian appeal as opposed to a regional one. It is trying, writes Varshney, to practise “what may be called the politics of citizenship.” That means “democratic deepening, deliberative democracy, governance, accountability, citizen politics versus clientelistic politics.” Or on the flip side, it’s tapping into an anger and frustration with the system. As Kejriwal puts it: Those whose salary comes from our money don’t listen to us. We cannot do anything against government doctors, teachers, fair-price shopkeepers, or policemen. After Delhi, at least the powers that be have to pay attention to AAP. As a friend quips, this is a new version of Hum AAPke Hain Koun as the old order tries to figure out what the rise of AAP means for them. Rahul Gandhi has already said his party is willing to learn from AAP. The party was once dismissed as the B-team of the Congress. Now the Congress looks like it’s the B-team. Rao writes “national parties will need to downplay dynastic relationships in the selection of candidates.” They will have to pay at least more lip service to the selection of “honest” candidates. BJP and Modi will have to remember that AAP is appealing to many of the same groups – young, urban, middleclass – that Modi has as his base writes Aiyar. “Modi offers a vision of change, but within the existing political framework. The AAP offers radical change outside the existing framework.” Its success in Delhi raises the tantalizing possibility that a vote for AAP is not a wasted protest vote after all. As Varshney writes it is “the promise of a citizen-friendly and corruption-free state, that has begun to excite the imagination of urban India. The AAP threatens to undermine politics as it is practised.” As Kejriwal and Co look at the opportunities in the rest of India, they are clearly hoping that unlike Las Vegas, what happens in Delhi does not have to stay in Delhi. You can read Ashutosh Varshney on AAP as “politics as unusual” here. You can read Swaminathan Aiyar on AAP as compared to JP and VP here. S.L. Rao’s column about the shock of AAP being felt by older parties can be read in the full here.

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The not so peaceful rise of China

Tactically, China’s recent moves vis-a-vis Japan are brilliant. Strategically, Beijing has lost more.

For roughly a decade, the Chinese government has spared no effort in trying to convince the rest of the world that China’s rise will be peaceful. Realists steeped in the history of great power competition have always been sceptical about Beijing’s pledges of pursuing what it calls “peaceful development”. Yet, liberal-minded analysts are willing to give China the benefit of the doubt. They believe that, given the right incentives, such as the economic benefits of globalisation, China will behave responsibly and become a stakeholder in the existing international order.

This debate remained inconclusive until about three years ago. Partisans on both sides could marshal sufficient evidence to buttress their arguments. However, as Chinese foreign policy began to grow more assertive, particularly on territorial disputes, realists who insisted that China would behave like a traditional great power gained greater credibility.

With the most recent escalation of tensions between China and Japan over the ownership of a group of small uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, there is little doubt that advocates of China’s peaceful rise are losing the debate. What makes the latest round of escalations special is the way Beijing chose to challenge Japan’s sovereignty claims over the Senkaku Islands, as Japan calls them (they are called the Diaoyu in China). To be sure, this particular dispute began in 1972, when the United States handed over administrative authority (but not legal ownership) to Japan. For four decades, China and Japan had adhered to a tacit agreement over the status of the islands: Japan would retain administrative control and claim sovereignty, and China would contest the sovereignty but not challenge Japan’s administrative control.

This understanding broke down in late 2012 when Tokyo was forced to “nationalise” the islands in order to prevent an extremist right-wing leader from purchasing some of the islands from their private owners, a development the Japanese government thought would lead to a confrontation with Beijing. Little did Tokyo realise that Beijing would regard its move, however well-intentioned, as a step tantamount to formally establishing sovereignty claims over the islands.

As part of its response, Beijing has gradually escalated. After repeatedly sending ships and planes into the territorial waters and airspace of the islands to challenge Japanese claims of exclusive administrative control, the Chinese government took the fateful step, on November 23, of announcing its East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ). Even though sovereign nations are not prohibited by international law to set up ADIZs, and more than a dozen countries have done so (including Japan and the US), China’s ADIZ in the East China Sea overlaps with those of Japan and South Korea. Most alarmingly, it also covers the airspace over the disputed islands.

Beijing’s intentions are crystal clear. By setting up an overlapping ADIZ over the disputed islands, it has mounted a legal challenge to Tokyo’s claims of administrative control. Under the rules announced by Beijing, all aircraft flying through China’s ADIZ must communicate their flight plans and identify themselves to the Chinese military, which will enforce the ADIZ. Obviously, Beijing views compliance with these rules as recognition of China’s legal control over the airspace over the islands and, by implication, the islands themselves.

Beijing’s escalation has infuriated Tokyo, which promptly announced that it would not recognise China’s ADIZ, and instructed its civilian airlines not to comply with China’s rules. Japan also openly challenged China by sending military aircraft through China’s ADIZ without notifying the Chinese military (South Korea has also dispatched military jets into the Chinese ADIZ).

Caught in the middle is the US, a treaty ally of Japan. Eager to show solidarity with Japan but reluctant to allow the dispute to escalate further, Washington has opted for a middle course. It has flatly rejected China’s new ADIZ and sent two unarmed B-52s through the Chinese ADIZ almost immediately after Beijing’s announcement. However, to avoid potential catastrophic accidents in the zone, the US government has also “advised” its civilian airlines to comply with the Chinese ADIZ.

By pure coincidence, the ADIZ controversy occurred right before US Vice President Joseph Biden’s scheduled visit to Japan, China and South Korea. Judging by the announcements following Biden’s stops in Tokyo and Beijing, it seems that he has achieved only modest accomplishments in trying to calm the troubled waters in the East China Sea. While he managed to reassure Japan of America’s unwavering support and criticised China’s escalation, he treaded carefully in Beijing and avoided directly challenging China’s decision by asking top Chinese leaders to rescind its ADIZ.

All this leaves the troubling impression that China has got away with a tactical move that changed the status quo over a longstanding dispute. Observers are worried about three consequences.

First, Beijing’s attempts to enforce the ADIZ in future could result in accidental military clashes with Japanese and US military aircraft in the zone, thus starting a conflict no one really wants. Similar attempts could also lead to aviation disasters similar to the infamous KAL 007 incident (when a Soviet MiG shot down a South Korean jumbo jet in 1983).

Second, encouraged by this precedent, China could set up a similar ADIZ in the South China Sea, using the same tactic to assert its maritime claims. Third, emboldened by the lack of a unified response from the international community to its unilateral move, China might be tempted to flex its muscles even more recklessly in future.

Of course, these are all valid concerns. But they overlook one important aspect of the Chinese ADIZ controversy. The ultimate question to ask is whether China gains or loses more in this case.

Tactically, we must concede that Beijing’s move is brilliant: it is controversial, but not illegal. Its new ADIZ should help China achieve its objective of contesting Japan’s sovereignty claims through clever legal manoeuvres. But strategically, we would find it hard to deny that Beijing has lost more. It has not only succeeded in demolishing any lingering hope that China’s rise could be peaceful, but also pushed Asian nations, bound by their fear of an assertive China, closer to each other and to America. If Chinese leaders are truly farsighted, one has to wonder whether this is their desired outcome.

The writer is professor of government and non-resident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the US.

The Governor General’s Files Sham secularism, feudal democracy

The Governor General’s Files Sham secularism, feudal democracy

S.K. Sinha

Rahul Gandhi barges into a press conference being held by his party spokesman justifying the infamous ordinance. In a rage, he calls it non- sense and wants to tear it. The entire sycophant brigade changes colour like a chameleon in a fraction of a second.

Secularism is a European con cept. It stands for separation of the Church from the state. It flowered among people who believed in the same religion, albeit from different sects. Our founding fathers adopted secularism as an article of faith for our multi-religious nation. It was embedded in our Constitution though the word secularism initially found no mention. Indira Gandhi got it incorporated through an amendment.

Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of secularism was based on pluralism, implying equality of all religions. This was in keeping with the genius of our nation.
Nehru’s secularism was that of an agnostic based on the European concept. Nehru reached out to Muslims to ensure that they did not suffer from any complex in the wake of Partition and felt they were equal citizens of India without any feeling of insecurity.

No communal riot took place in his regime. Haj subsidy, not available in any Muslim country, was introduced in India to boost their morale and not for gathering votes. He and his party could easily win elections with or without their support.

The Muslims realised that they had got carried away by the Two Nation Theory wave which split the country.

Muslim film stars Mehrunissa and Yusuf Khan adopted Hindu names, Meena Kumari and Dilip Kumar respectively for greater acceptability. We have come a long way since.

Our Muslim citizens or film stars no longer harbour any complex. Today, they have no hesitation in asserting their identity, much more than they did before Partition. It is pertinent that no one raised any objection to India adopting a national emblem, national anthem or national song more associated with the culture and history of the majority community. If these were to be chosen today, there would be strong opposition from so-called secularists and some religious fundamentalists.

Unlike her father, Indira Gandhi was not an agnostic and observed religious rituals.

Her secularism was for building the votebank. Nehru never held iftaar parties at government expense but that is now done with a vengeance. No state functions are held for other religious communities.

National security and national interests are being compromised by sham secularists.

Illegal migration from Bangladesh in Assam is encouraged for the vote bank.

Similarly, a soft policy is followed in Kashmir and against jihadi terrorism. The plight of Kashmiri Pandits is ignored.

The fact that about a hundred temples were vandalised in the Valley earlier is kept under wraps, while the reprehensible demolition of the Babri Masjid is kept alive even after 20 years.

The BJP with several prominent Muslim leaders is considered a communal party and is treated as untouchable.

Exclusively Muslim parties with a communal agenda, like Muslim League, Majlis-eIttehadul Muslimeen and All India United Democratic Front, are honoured coalition partners of the Congress Party.

The Prime Minister violates the provisions of the Constitution when he declares that Muslims are his first priority for the development bonanza. He seems to be not bothered about non-Muslims, no matter how disadvantaged.

Haj House was built by the government at Dwarka in Delhi in 2008 at a cost of `22 crore, while in the same year 100 acres of barren forest land leased to the Amarnath Shrine Board, with the latter paying `2.2 crore, was rescinded to appease fanatics. They came out with a yarn about the uninhabitable and snow-covered land for eight months in the year being used to change the demography of the Valley, like Israel did in Palestine.

Our two well-known top senior journalists spin similar yarns. One reported that the shrine board will build fivestar hotels at Baltal. The other called the board a villain of peace. There are several examples of such antics of our sham secularists. Genuine secularism is justice for all and appeasement of none.

Another grave malady our country faces is dynastic rule.

This destroys the root of democracy and injects feudalism into polity. Liberty, equality and fraternity are dumped to ensure the unquestioned supremacy of the ruling family. The nation has to suffer the rule of the family, by the family and for the family. The dynastic disease has spread like cancer to other political parties, too.

This is bad enough. But what is worse is that this promotes a feudal culture not only among rulers but all their underlings,including the bureaucracy.

The latter stands now more enslaved than it was under colonial rule. The common man suffers more arrogance of power than he did under the British era.

Dynastic rule encourages sycophancy and courtier culture. The ruler can do no wrong. The rulers drunk on power are emboldened to adopt an “off with his head” policy.

Durga Shakti Nagpal became a victim but could survive due to national outrage. The principle of collective responsibility of the Cabinet or individual responsibility of the minister does not apply in a feudal democracy. A minister may approve a proposal, accord written sanction but if it is found wrong, the bureaucrat is hauled up, not the minister.

There was once a Lal Bahadur Shastri in this country, who was so different.

Rahul Gandhi barges into a press conference being held by his party spokesman justifying the infamous ordinance. In a rage, he calls it nonsense and wants to tear it to shreds. The entire sycophant brigade changes colour like a chameleon in a fraction of a second. The loud chorus of praise for the young genius reaches a crescendo. No one bothers about why this was done, the manner in which it was done or the timing. The ordinance had been approved by the core group of the party, by the Cabinet and was being strongly defended by all courtiers. He was in the know of all this and his silence over it was indicative of his concurrence.

Perhaps the reasons for his delayed wisdom was the reservation shown by the President, the Opposition appealing to the President not to sign the ordinance and the mounting disgust among people on the eve of elections. Such pedestrian thoughts lie buried deep.

Mahatma Gandhi rid the nation of what he called slave mentality and raised us out of dust to dignity and Independence. One does not know what the outcome of the 2014 elections will be. Let us hope that irrespective of who comes to power, he liberates the nation from the evils of sham secularism and feudal democracy.

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VHP leaders found Murdered

2 VHP leaders Ram Mohan Gupta in UP and Ajit Khuman of Amreli of Gujarat found Murdered

VHP Leader (VHP Block President) & his brother (Sarpach of the village) killed in Gundaran village in Amreli Dist of Gujarat on December 1, 2013 at 6 pm. Shri Ajitbhai Khuman (Age 27 yrs), a VHP President of the block & his brother Shri Bharatbhai Khuman (Age 25 yrs) who was a Sarpach were attacked by a mob of miscreants wielding guns & sharp weapons. Both brothers were helping the village in the construction work of the Gram Panchayat’s small building when the incident happened. The mob shot at them & then attacked them with weapons too taking their eyes out.

The Gundaran village, Lilya Tehsil (block) & Amreli Dist onserved strict Band on Monday. The police had not arrested the culprits until Dec 4, 2013. Both brothers had been known for their helping nature & smiling faces. They were from the simple farmers community in the area. In Deeawali, VHP International Working President Dr Pravin Togadia had met them at their home in the village to appreciate their work. The elder brother Ajitbhai Khuman has 2 little kids age 7 and 2.5 yrs. The younger brother just had a little baby.

Final rites performed at Gujarat for Ajitbhai Khuman (Age 27 yrs), a VHP President of the block & his brother Bharatbhai Khuman (Age 25 yrs)

Shockingly, Another VHP leader Ram Mohan Gupta in UP also found murdered at Ambedkar Nagar District, in Uttara Pradesh.

FAIZABAD Dec 6 : Communal tension gripped Tanda town of Ambedkarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday night after a local VHP leader was shot dead by unidentified gunmen. Keeping in view the simmering tension over the murder, a heavy contingent of security forces including PAC jawans was deployed in the town.

According to official sources, three unidentified gunmen came to the chemist shop of the VHP leader Ram Mohan Gupta in Tanda town and fired three bullets from point blank range. Locals immediately took Gupta to the district hospital where doctors declared him dead on arrival.

After the killing, activists of VHP and Hindu Yuva Vahini blocked traffic on Tanda-Akbarpur road. The activists raised anti-government and inflammatory slogans, locals said.

In March this year, Ram Mohan Gupta’s uncle, Ram Babu Gupta — also a VHP leader — was killed in a similar fashion. After the killing, sporadic communal clashes were reported from some villages in Tanda, forcing the administration to keep the areas under curfew for over a week.

Food security: A real test for the Indian PM

WTO is a dying horse. India does not need to revive it.The world already has signed 379 bilateral/regional trade agreements. It’s time for the Wrong Trade Organisation to go
Food security: A real test for the Indian PM

The US actually gave $147 million to the farmers in Brazil as subsidy which in other words is nothing but a bribe. This way they managed to hoodwink the WTO.

What India needs to be careful about is that the US does not try the same with our farmers. We need to be very careful and resist what I would call sweet coercion.

December 05, 2013 18:26 IST

India is not prepared for any compromise on the food security issue and the deal at Bali has to be fair and balanced, Commerce Minister, Anand Sharma said after taking a firm stance on the issue. It is better not to have an agreement rather than have bad one, he said.
Food security bill
While the stand taken by India is extremely impressive, the next two days would be crucial. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have a chance finally to prove his mettle and if he sticks to India’s stand at Bali when he gets a call from US President Barack Obama, he would have probably done the best thing as Prime Minister, feels, Devinder Sharma, a trade policy analyst and an award-winning journalist.

Devinder Sharma who is also trained as an agricultural scientist speaks with about the World Trade Organisation and India’s stand on the food security issue in detail.

The stand taken by India is a very brave one and is also an important milestone. I am very impressed with India’s ability to stand up and defy the international regime which has no regard for the food security of 600 million farmers and 800 million hungry people.

It is probably for the first time that we have taken such a tough stance and we must stick by it. Let us be clear here about one thing. In 2008, the talks had failed when the interest of the United States of America was to protect its cotton subsidy. At that time around they did not bother about the WTO and were worried about their own interests.

Moreover it was the election year there. India does not need to be more royal than the King. When the US could put the negotiations on the backburner at that time, so can we. We need to protect our own interests too. Remember that the WTO is a dying horse and India does not need to protect it. If it is dying then let it die.

Just because the negotiations have failed this time, why India should be blamed? Did the US bother in 2008? We have so many bilaterals and really do not worry about the WTO. We cannot slaughter the people for the sake of the WTO.

We need to understand that India is very justified in putting up a brave fight on the issue. What exactly is happening is that the US is not challenging our food subsidy. The actual challenge is the income support that India provides to its farmers.

If we are now asking our farmers to procure rice at Rs 1,310 per quintal, we need to stick to it in the interest of the farmers. Just imagine we buckle to the US and start telling our farmers to procure rice at Rs 600.

The outcome will be disastrous and the farmer will kill himself. So basically the US is opposed to the income support and not the food subsidy as it is being made to look. More income support to our farmers would mean they will produce more and this hurts the interests of the US commercially.

It is basically a battle between the India and American farmers. They would be happy if the Indian farmer produced less and we imported rice from them instead. This is the whole crux of the matter.

This is a real test for our Prime Minister. In 2008, President Bush had called our PM four times on the issue. Now expect a call from Barrack Obama on the very same issue.
This is a real test for the PM who has failed on several fronts.

He has often accused of succumbing to the US and this is his best chance to prove otherwise. The next two days would be crucial and we hope he does not bow before the US.

What India needs to continue doing is say that the issue is non-negotiable. We should instead demand a food security box in order to protect the livelihood of the farmer and the food security of the hungry.

We should continue to insist that the talks will move on provided there is a solution on food security and not sign any interim agreement or the peace clause.

I would like to draw your attention to an issue concerning the United States and Brazil. The US was taken to the dispute panel by Brazil on the cotton subsidy issue. Brazil was allowed to impose contravening duties to US exports.

The US actually gave $147 million to the farmers in Brazil as subsidy which in other words is nothing but a bribe. This way they managed to hoodwink the WTO.

What India needs to be careful about is that the US does not try the same with our farmers. We need to be very careful and resist what I would call sweet coercion.